Computer Security

     Computer security is an expensive headache, but an important necessity.

     Many folks have been hearing it for so long, they may have been conditioned to believe it is the individual’s duty to keep certain personal information private, even though the information is beyond their control. If job applications require your social security number, how can you stop the employer from leaking it? How can you be expected to protect information if big companies don’t?

     The real problem is that anybody can telephone a bank and claim to be you, but with a new address. By reciting enough of your personal information, the caller can acquire a credit card with your name. The banks could require identification and the credit cards could be sent through a secure channel that requires identification at the time of delivery.

     Of course, you need to be careful when disclosing your account numbers, but you also need to be free to opt out of online banking. Somebody working at the dentist office can write down your checking account details when nobody is looking, but this information should not give criminals any access to your account.



     The federal government and its vendors need to secure their computer systems by implementing firewalls. One computer would do the work with the confidential data and then encrypt it, exporting the cryptext to a data storage device such as a flash drive. Then the operator would remove the storage device from that computer, which would never be connected to the internet, and install the device into another computer, which would do nothing but receive and send cryptext. The hackers may break into that computer, but all they would get would be cryptext.

     One day at the beach, I scooped up a handful of sand and examined it. I realized that a close-up bitmap image of this sand would provide an abundance of random numbers.

     Each picture element (pixel) of a bitmap image consists of three numbers, each in the range from 0 to 255. Each number is one byte of data: eight binary digits, each binary digit being a zero or a one. There are 256 possible combinations of zeroes and ones, eight binary digits (bits) long. There is one byte for red, one for green and one for blue. The bitmap image would produce millions of random binary digits. The same lump of sand can then be shaken and photographed again, revealing millions more random binary digits. These binary digits can be the foundation of one-time pads for secure encryption.

     With this unbreakable form of encryption, it is essential to have a secure channel for the one-time pad. The President could deliver the data storage device, such as a compact disc (C.D.) to a visitor in the White House, or the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations could distribute these discs to the other countries’ ambassadors. Bankers could hand you the storage device at the time you open your account. A lot of transaction data can be encrypted with a single megabyte of one-time pad.

     The use of unbreakable encryption would go a long way toward reducing data breaches.